Stuffed plump with crab, shrimp, and pork, then deep-fried twice for maximum blistering, these rolls induced swoons from everyone at the table. Even when tightly wrapped in lettuce and herbs and dunked with abandon in chili-spiked nuoc cham, the cha gio remained unbeatably crisp, the translucent rice paper wrappers shattering with each bite.
Archive for the 'Cha Gio' Category
Dining at a single restaurant on five different occassions in the span of two months has got to be some sort of record for me. While this type of behavior is generally considered quite normal, it’s really very notable in my world because food blogging tends to discourage restaurant monogamy—there’s always something newer, more exciting, or tastier just around the corner.
Hà Tiên Quán in San Gabriel has reeled in my promiscuous dining ways with its tremendous Vietnamese cooking. The restaurant’s lineup of regional noodle soups never fails to warm and satisfy, while the vegetarian fare packs a wallop of flavor.
With nearly every Vietnamese restaurant in town serving up the usual pho, vermicelli rice noodles, and and banh mi, it’s been a breath of fresh air diving head first into Hà Tiên’s anything-but-predictable menu. Best of all, I’m constantly tasting new dishes that I didn’t grow up with or encounter while living in Vietnam. This place is my edible playground.
The family behind the restaurant is comprised of Larry Ta, his wife Thu Trang, and their daughter Carolyn. Thu heads up the kitchen, while Carolyn and Larry greet, seat, and tend to customers. Both Larry and Thu are from Ha Tien, a city on the western end of the Mekong Delta near the Cambodian border. Hà Tiên Quán opened its doors last October.
The Astronomer and I recently traveled to Vietnam for a two-and-a-half week holiday. Three years have passed since we called Saigon home, and it felt incredible to be back. Oh, how I’ve missed the people, noise, and traffic!
The Astronomer and I used to eat here on a daily basis when we first moved to Saigon because it was located within walking distance of our office at the East Meets West Foundation. And of course, the food was worth coming back for again and again.
When we walked into the restaurant, the proprietress instantly recognized us and asked where the heck we’d been. It’s always nice to be remembered at a restaurant, and even nicer when it’s been three years. We grabbed a table near the front and placed our order with her son. Our table was decked out with the usual utensils, box of tissues, and pork sausages wrapped in banana leaves (cha).
I ordered a tall glass of passion fruit juice to start. Fresh fruit juices and smoothies are widely available in Saigon to keep residents cool from the tropical heat. The ratio of sugar to juice is always perfect for my taste.
Even though I was warned by the Twitterverse of hour-long lines and have experienced firsthand the utter chaos of large-scale food events (See: Grilled Cheese Invitational and Great American Food and Music Fest), missing out on the first annual LA Street Food Fest was completely out of the question—I live for meals on wheels!
I am not alone in my passion for street eats. Fifteen-thousand Angelenos descended upon LA Center Studios in downtown this past Saturday to stuff their pie holes with Brazilian acaraje, Japanese hot dogs, Mexican huarache, and so much more. The thirty-five trucks at the festival were armed and mostly ready to feed the masses. Even though lines seemed to snake on forever, nearly all of the vendors managed to bring enough food to last the entire day. Those who endured the lengthy waits were rewarded for their efforts.
Hands-down the most popular truck of the day was Chef Ludo Lefebvre‘s pop-up fried chicken mobile. In true Ludo Bites fashion, Krissy ran the front of the “house,” while Ludo and his brigade churned out fresh bites in the back. Hungry folks hankering for a piece of LFC waited upwards of two hours for a taste.